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Rainbow Kitchen Still Serving, Despite Pandemic

Homestead non-profit finds increased demand, but fewer donations

By Nick Zurawsky
The Tube City Almanac
May 06, 2020
Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News

Rainbow Kitchen is falling into a comfortable routine, despite the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Executive Director Donna Little.

The iconic Homestead community food service was affected on all fronts by the quarantine measures put into effect after the national emergency declaration on March 13.

Almost every aspect of Rainbow Kitchen’s operation has changed. For example, it went from serving people daily in their cafeteria to packaging and handing out meals from the curbside.

Little said that on the Monday following the emergency declaration, a meeting was held among various Homestead organizations including schools, churches and public safety. The community agreed that because of the impending increase in jobless citizens, food services should be high on the list of priorities.

Along with Rainbow Kitchen, local churches are providing food, and schools are even giving lunches to some students despite being closed.

Rainbow Kitchen provides meals to the needy across the Mon Valley, including Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, Whitaker, Duquesne and West Mifflin. Many of the people served are elderly and reside in assisted living facilities that are limiting outside contact as much as possible.  
“[The elderly] are both the most vulnerable and they don't want to go out,” Little said, adding that while every apartment building and assisted living facility differs in its operations, Rainbow Kitchen has managed to make arrangements with each facility to deliver food to those who need it most.

At first, Rainbow Kitchen saw a decrease in customers because people were unsure about what social distancing entails, Little said. 

But after large-scale job layoffs began and children who were out of school were no longer receiving lunches, Rainbow Kitchen experienced a sharp increase in demand.

Despite the influx of newcomers, Little said that “everyone worked with it very well. People were great about working with the system.”

Making matters more challenging, Rainbow Kitchen has also stopped using volunteers in order to reduce the possibility of coronavirus transmission. That has increased the burden on staff, and Little says she is grateful for their passion and dedication.

While Rainbow Kitchen is adapting to the current crisis, financial obstacles are putting a major strain on its mission, Little said. 
With much of Rainbow Kitchen’s support coming from local businesses and individuals, many of whom are cutting expenses to weather the economic downturn, the organization has seen a decrease in funding.

In addition, Rainbow Kitchen is refusing food donations from stores and community members at this time due to health concerns, and its largest annual fundraising event — Walk and Ride Against Hunger — previously scheduled for the first Saturday in June, has been cancelled.

Nick Zurawsky is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. He may be reached at nickzurawsky@gmail.com.

Originally published May 06, 2020.

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